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British Rockets of the Napoleonic and Colonial Wars 1805-1901
By Carl Franklin
Publisher: Spellmount 2005 272 Pages
PDF 109 MB
The use of rockets as weapons can be traced back to thirteenth-century China and there are records to show that the Mogul Emperor Akbar also used them in India during the sixteenth century. The emerging British Empire first encountered rockets as weapons during the Mahratta Wars, particularly during the Siege of Serringapatam in 1799. One of the British regiments involved in the siege and subject to the new weapons was the 33rd Regiment of Foot whose colonel at the time was the future Duke of Wellington. The effect of the rockets was such as to cause the East India Company great concern and they decided to seek their own supply. William Congreve Junior became interested in the project and, with the patronage of his close friend the Prince of Wales, he was provided with the necessary political and military influence so that his father, Colonel Sir William Congreve, Comptroller of the Royal Laboratory, provided him with the necessary facilities in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich.
In Europe, Britain was at war with France and the French had gathered an invasion flotilla in the basin of Boulogne harbour against which the Royal Navy had been unable to inflict any serious damage. Congreve proposed the use of his rockets to attack the French ships and, with the influence of his royal patron, the reluctant First Sea Lord was persuaded to put the plan into effect. Thus began the era of British war rockets.
The rockets proposed by Congreve offered some advantage over the equivalent artillery of the time as they could achieve over 3,000 yards without the encumbering recoil, manpower and weight of ordnance. This advantage was important as it enabled them to be fired from small boats or simple land frames.
Congreve was not popular with the artillery officers of the day, who considered his position and influence were disproportionately due to the status of his father and the patronage of the Prince of Wales. This attitude to the man, and their natural reserve, made enthusiasm for rockets the province of the very few. It is of interest that the man who eventually commanded the Rocket Troop was 2nd Captain Richard Bogue; he was also a personal friend of the Prince Regent and was often seen at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. He was deemed so handsome by the Brighton girls that they nicknamed him look and die'. It was under his command that the rockets achieved their greatest success at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813.